Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Europe's money markets freeze as crisis builds in Italy, Spain


By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
The Telegraph, London
Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The three-month euribor/OIS spread, the fear gauge of credit markets, reached the highest level in two years today, jumping 7 basis points to 40 in wild trading.

"Europe's money markets are undoubtedly starting to freeze up," said Marc Ostwald from Monument Securites.

"It's not as dramatic as pre-Lehamn but it is alarming and shows the pervasive degree of fear in the markets. People are again refusing to lend except on a secured basis."

The credit stress was triggered by fresh mayhem in the southern European bond markets and ominously in parts of the eurozone's soft core as well, including Belgium. Spanish yields pushed further into the danger zone to 6.42 percent. Italian debt reached a post-EMU high of 6.22 percent before falling back slightly on reports of Chinese buying.

"We have a revolt taking place by foreign investors in these bond markets," said Hans Redeker, currency chief at Morgan Stanley. "There have been hardly any purchases for several months. We are seeing net disinvestment because people fear that these countries lack the potential to grow their way out of the problem, and risk falling into a Fisherite debt trap."

... Dispatch continues below ...


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Lewis E. Lehrman, chairman of the Lehrman Institute, sponsor of The Gold Standard Now project, advises that to reduce the $1 1/2 trillion U.S. deficit, the Republican Party must initiate an investment program.

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Mr Redeker said the eurozone needs a lender of last resort along the lines of the US Federal Reserve to backstop the Spanish and Italan bond markets. The European Central Bank cannot easly step into the breach under its current legal mandate and treaty authority.

"The eurozone faces a very big decision: It either creates a central fiscal authority or accepts reality and starts to think the unthinkable, which is to cut the currency union into workable pieces."

The escalating drama forced Spain's premier Jose Luis Zapatero to delay his holiday in the Doñana biodiversity park near Huelva. A spokesman said he was staying in Madrid "to more closely monitor the evolution of the economic indicators." Mr Zapatero telephoned opposition leader Mariano Rajoy on his holiday in Galicia to keep him informed of the fast-moving events.

In Rome, Italy's president Giorgio Napolitano held a second meeting in days with central bank chief Mario Draghi, the future head of the ECB. There has been speculation in the Italian press that the well-respected Mr Draghi might be called to lead an emergency government to restore market confidence.

Finance minister Giulio Tremonti invoked the country's financial crisis committee on Tuesday as the Milan bourse fell to a three-year low, once again led by bank stocks. Fiat fell 6 percent after an 11 percent drop in Italian car registrations in July.

Mr Tremonti was to talk last night to EU economics commissioner Olli Rehn, who has interupted his holiday in Finland. He will visit Luxembourg on Wednesday for a meeting with Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

An EU spokesman said there was "no emergency plan" on the table. "There are no factual reasons that we are aware of that can explain this sudden acute surge in spreads. What matters is that the Spanish and Italian authorities are taking the necessary action towards fiscal consolidation," she said.

Simon Derrick from the BNY Mellon said the trigger for the final denouement in each of the eurozone's bond crises so far has been when the spread over German Bunds reaches 450 basis points, prompting LCH Clearnet to impose higher margin requirements. The Spanish spread hit a record 400 on Tuesday.

The political ferment behind the scenes points to a major policy shift, though it is unclear what the EU authorities can do without the full backing of EU leaders. They are mostly on holiday and German Chancellor Angela Merkel does not like to be bounced into decisions.

The EU summit accord in late July has clearly failed to reassure investors. It gave the EFSF bail-out fund powers to buy Spanish and Italian bond pre-emptively but this has to be ratified by all parliaments, which may take four months. Willem Buiter from Citigroup said the E440 billion fund is far too small to cope with Italy and Spain, and requires immediate firepower of E2.5 trillion. Such demands risk setting off a political crisis in Berlin.

Credit experts in the City said it was unlikely that China is purchasing bonds from the eurozone periphery. The Chinese central bank's reserve manager SAFE is clearly buying euros on a large scale to hold down the yuan and safeguard export advantage in Europe, but it appears to be purchasing short-term debt of a one-year maturity or less and other liquid assets.

Even if the crisis is resolved, Italy and Spain may have to pay significantly higher borrowing costs to attract buyers. Anthony Peters from Swissinvest says large clients have been telling asset managers to eliminate Southern European risk. "They have kissed peripheral Europe goodbye," he said.

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Sona Drills 85.4g Gold/Ton Over 4 Metres at Elizabeth Gold Deposit,
Extending the Mineralization of the Southwest Vein on the Property

Company Press Release, October 27, 2010

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Sona Resources Corp. reports on five drillling holes in the third round of assay results from the recently completed drill program at its 100 percent-owned Elizabeth Gold Deposit Property in the Lillooet Mining District of southern British Columbia. Highlights from the diamond drilling include:

-- Hole E10-66 intersected 17.4g gold/ton over 1.54 metres.

-- Hole E10-67 intersected 96.4g gold/ton over 2.5 metres, including one assay interval of 383g of gold/ton over 0.5 metres.

-- Hole E10-69 intersected 85.4g gold/ton over 4.03 metres, including one assay interval of 230g gold/ton over 1 metre.

Four drill holes, E10-66 to E10-69, targeted the southwestern end of the Southwest Vein, and three of the holes have expanded the mineralized zone in that direction. The Southwest Vein gold mineralization has now been intersected over a strike length of 325 metres, with the deepest hole drilled less than 200 metres from surface.

"The assay results from the Southwest Zone quartz vein continue to be extremely positive," says John P. Thompson, Sona's president and CEO. "We are expanding the Southwest Vein, and this high-grade gold mineralization remains wide open down dip and along strike to the southwest."

For the company's full press release, please visit: